Towards Socialism - Notes on the Transitional Phase (Part II)

This article expresses the opinions and ideas of individual comrades and not necessarily those of the ICT as a whole. See Introduction to Discussions on Socialism.

But the historical development of the antagonisms immanent in a given form of production is the only way in which that form of production can be dissolved and a new form established.

K.Marx , Capital, Volume I, Chap. XV p.458 - Lawrence and Wishart 1954

Following publication of the first of these "notes" a certain confrontation/debate began about some aspects of the transition to communism. There was, and is, in the nature of those "notes" the intention to stimulate this reflection. We hope that these new "notes" produce the same effect. Through this work, we're looking to reiterate some points but also to provide insights about the difficulties the development of a future revolutionary process might encounter.

Revisiting the first part of the notes

Methodological issues. In the first part of these "notes" (1) we did not emphasise strongly enough at times that all statements relating to socialism can only be made in general or programmatic ways at the moment. In the chapter "contradictions of the process of socialisation," for example, we sometimes considered somewhat over-specific hypothesis regarding some problems such as: the possibility survival of large and small owners, the reasons why part of the productive apparatus cannot be immediately socialised, the continued existence of capitalist economic categories under socialism, but in doing so we left ourselves open to criticism.

It is important to highlight that the concrete conditions in which the future revolutionary process will be carried out cannot be predicted today, except in very general terms: what will be the structural, infrastructural, social, environmental etc conditions when the revolutionary process occurs? What concrete forms will this process take? At what point will capitalist barbarism have reached by then? Who can answer these questions today? No one.

At present our programme cannot go beyond the assertion of general principles. Getting down to concrete hypotheses about this or that particular aspect – with the risk of them then being taken as certainties – would expose us to a double error, political and methodological. On the one hand we risk being misunderstood in some speculations that we can now only base on assumptions (e.g. the reasons why an immediate socialisation of some enterprises might not be possible tomorrow, and how to deal with this problem), to be making programmatic statements (e.g. "the PCInt wants/expects that, even under socialism, not all companies are socialised" a position alien to us); on the other hand, we don’t know today the concrete conditions in which the revolution will develop, so we run the risk of exaggerating some aspects, omitting others, and thus we could fall into a kind of utopianism that has nothing to do with historical materialism.

If today we might be able to ask the right questions about what might happen tomorrow, at the same time we must not confuse this reflection and questioning with programmatic statements. The programme, which today we can only develop and argue about, will in the future be the compass by which the contradictions that emerge in practice will be addressed and checked. But this is precisely the task of the future, the task of a revolutionary proletariat led by its party: in a historical period, of course, very different from today. The transition from capitalism to communism will be a process – of this we can be sure – in which for a time some legacy of capitalism will continue to survive. These are complex contradictions that need to be addressed and dealt with until they are finally extinquished.

What we are dealing with here is a communist [socialist Ed] society, not as it has developed on its own basis, but vice versa, as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally,, intellectually is stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges (2)."

Our immediate programme. It remains possible to summarise in a few points that also outline the order they happen in time, the characteristic features of this revolutionary programme:

  1. transition of all political power to the new bodies of power, workers’ councils in each area;
  2. elimination of private ownership of the means of production (its total control by the councils);
  3. exclusion of the bourgeoisie from all political rights;
  4. promoting in every way the international extension of the revolution;
  5. overcoming capital as a productive force through the socialisation of the means of production;
  6. formation of committees of workers' control in every workplace;
  7. production of planning based on collective and individual needs;
  8. division of socially necessary labour among the whole working population;
  9. replacement of money as a medium of exchange in favour of the labour time voucher;

Proletarian revolution and socialist construction

We have to make clear that the conquest of power by the proletariat only opens the door to the possibility of socialist construction: the revolutionary act is necessary, but not sufficient, to begin the socialist phase (the first phase of communist society). The proletarian power will in fact begin the socialisation of the means of production – and with it the overthrow of capitalist economic categories (capital, wages, commodities, market, prices ...) – only on condition that it extends the revolutionary process thus ensuring a minimum set of conditions such as: a productive apparatus in "good condition", the possibility of a supply of raw materials, the material possibility of directing production according to the aims of socialism, to ensure the defence of the revolutionary power, etc.

It is a process that must be extremely rapid (3) and that, presumably, will encounter many difficulties. In the event that such an international extension, that is, at least relative to a significant geographical macro area (for example, the entire Mediterranean basin) does not occur, the proletariat which has already politically defeated its "own" bourgeoisie can only with great difficulty begin a process of real socialisation of the productive structure. In adverse conditions determined by the possibility of isolation of the first revolutionary experiences, the tasks of the new proletarian power will probably be limited to:

  1. working for the international extension of the revolution thus coming to the rescue of the first breaches in the capitalist camp;
  2. trying to keep the capitalist classes under control in an attempt to prevent the social class that is an expression of these classes (the bourgeoisie), from being able to "get back in the saddle" thus overthrowing revolutionary power.

Regarding what has been said it is important to point out that:

  1. such a situation is in itself critical, failure to expand the revolutionary process at a rapid pace would ultimately compromise the entire process as was the case in Russia;

2 local situations must be managed with an international and internationalist perspective following an international strategy, defined by the revolutionaries. The existence and the rooting of the international party of the proletariat is a necessary condition for the realisation of this strategy.

That is all we can predict now based on our method and on the basis of the lessons of the defeat of the past revolutionary wave.

Socialisation and the subsistence of capitalist economic categories under socialism. As has been said in the first part of the "notes", the socialisation of the means of production is an objective of the proletarian power. In this task, the proletarian power will devote its efforts, starting of course from the economically important sectors.

Where this immediate socialisation is not possible, the proletarian power must operate in any case in order to "kick out" the bourgeoisie: from productive activities that will be subject to the direct control of the bodies (councils) of the proletarian semi-state.

In reality these would continue to be active capitalist economic categories, but the hosts would be ousted: the councils would therefore be responsible for the administration of the companies. However, this is an exceptional measure, aimed only at excluding the bosses from economic power. This anticipates that the internal and international conditions permit the complete socialisation of such companies. It is evident that such a measure would be a contradiction within the proletarian semi-state, which would manage areas of production in which we continue to produce goods in exchange for a wage. A contradiction that can only be overcome with the rapid progress of the revolution, through clear programmatic objectives.

The same goes for money. If it is true that doing away with it is inscribed in our programme, it is equally true that where this cannot happen quickly, it must be up to the proletarian power to take this means of circulation and accumulation from the bourgeoisie, through full control of the banks, thus subjecting them, immediately, to the control of the councils, in order to drive them out of existence. Let's repeat that we refer to exceptional measures, unintended, not sought after, but that in a particularly complex and difficult first phase may become necessary, measures to neutralise the bourgeoisie by taking away the control of the sources of its economic power.

What has been said implies the possibility that, for a certain period of time, alongside the socialised productive sectors in which the exchange of "work for consumer goods" is regulated by the labour voucher, there is an economic area in which, although under the control of the proletarian semi-state, the production of goods in exchange for a wage remains.

In this situation: how will access to consumer goods be regulated if some workers receive a labour voucher and others a wage? Alongside the social fund of the means of consumption which one can access with the voucher will there still remain for a while, something similar to the market? How will the issuance and circulation of money be regulated? To what extent will the proletarian semi-state be able to "immunise" the residual contradiction of having to control production which still takes place according to the logic of profit? These are some questions that it is important not to forget though, as stated at the beginning, today we do not have the means to respond. And we cannot answer today, not because of limited analytical capacity, but because these are concrete problems that only the concrete historical process can define and that only the class and the revolutionary party, at that time, will be able to effectively address and resolve.

The problem arises at the same time as the means to solve it (4).

We, today, have the task of outlining them in general terms, which is all that is currently possible. Anyone wishing to proceed otherwise would fall into the usual idealistic childishness of "all at once ... or nothing."

Having made these necessary clarifications, it is time to resume the discussion of the general characteristics of the revolutionary situation. We will look at some issues in detail such as workers' control, the functions of planning and production of the proletarian semi-state, the labour time voucher and property under socialism.

Workers’ control

... we want socialist revolution with people as they are today, and that they cannot do without either subordination or control, nor "overseers, nor accountants (5).

If the council system expresses the political power of the working class and, at the same time, centralises its organisations in the planning and general administration of socialist production and distribution, it is the workers' committees in every workplace which have the role of fine-tuned control of the progress of labour activity, the application of the decisions made by the councils, control over labour discipline, ensuring security, etc.

In this sense, "workers' control", before being an organ, is a principle: once political power from below is conquered, in every workplace, in every industry, workers must collectively seize the means of production. Delegates of this workers' control (elected with the right of recall and equal remuneration) carry out their duties without the right to any privilege. These duties shall, as far as possible, be carried out in rotation. Workers' control, based in the workplace is about the management of the labour process within the socialised economy just as the council system, on a territorial basis, is the organ of planning and centralised management of the entire production plan. (6)

The committees of workers' control are organs of workers ' participation at the level of the individual production unit, and come into contact with each other at the regional level in order to share experiences, best practices, effective strategies for solving problems, etc. within them grows the awareness of the worker with respect to the production process, their ability to control it. Within the socialised structures it could possibly be up to the same bodies of workers' control to certify the work actually done and, therefore, to guarantee the right to a labour-time voucher for the individual worker.

Contradictions in the context of workers' control. In fact, workers' control is that of the workplace, but through its generalisation, it will become an essential function of the entire post-revolutionary society: it could become a sort of complementary element to the proletarian power expressed by the council system. Let us elaborate.

It is no accident that Lenin, shortly before his death, deeply troubled by the fate of the (already compromised) revolution and greatly weakened by illness, spent much of his last few months working on a decree for the massive revival of workers' control, for him this was the only medicine to cure the disease of degeneration that had long infected revolutionary Russia (7). Is it also no accident that under Stalinism the Soviets formally remained in existence, but workers' control did not.

The dictatorship of the proletariat could not exist without workers' control, and vice versa (N.B!). If in fact the proletarian power has a political character (with the ability to use authoritarian means to defend the revolution), which makes it, by definition, dangerous, workers control is entirely concerned with pure and simple management of production and distribution. But, in turn, workers' control, with its elected committees based on their place of work, could fall into the error of "enterprise-ism", the localism inherent in being limited to their own working environment.

The temptation to entrust the administration of a single production unit to its committee may arise, in a framework of autonomous and self-managed workplaces, is programmatically marked by a certain anarchism: "so many small communities" where all manage their own activities and then exchange their products. But this would mean going back to the origins of capitalism! It is a position that must be rejected.

The council system, international by definition, defines the role of specific productive activities in the overall interests of the proletariat and of humanity, in doing so it , in turn, balances out the localist risks to which the factory (or other workplace) committees are exposed. In this area, the role of the Party is central . It summarises in its platform, tactics, and strategy, the general interests of the proletariat and acts, therefore, to ensure that local and self-driven interests are exercised in favour of the defence of the overall interests of the class, for socialism.

For communists administration remains centralised in the councils. The committees of workers' control are limited to applying to the production environment that which has been centrally decided, communicating in turn with the centre, the councils, any contingent problems, suggestions to improve activity, etc.

Between the councils and committees there remains a contradictory relationship, the legacy of the contradictions inherent in capitalist society: the former are organs of political power, the latter for carrying out specific tasks. But with the development of socialism the dictatorial function of the councils will die together with the extinction of the class contradiction that makes it necessary; likewise with the emergence of a universal consciousness of men based on their free association the temptation to localism will diminish. Councils and committees finally merge into one, the normal function of the administration of the things of life, there is no longer a need to exercise a power that is not that of "responsibility with respect to the collective interest." When that day approaches we will be close to the extinction of the state, or the affirmation of complete communism and humanity, finally rediscovered, will be in a position to devote itself exclusively to address the problems "of life".

The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society, that is, the taking possession of all means of production in the name of society is at the same time its last independent act as a state. The intervention of the state power in social relations becomes successively superfluous in every sphere and then ceases of itself. Instead of the government of persons the administration of things and the direction of the production processes. The state is not "abolished": "it withers away" (8).

public functions will lose their political character, and are transformed into simple administrative functions watching over the true interests of society (9).

Control means awareness: awareness of the production process, the environment in which it takes place, the general conditions, the laws that regulate the process of things, production, the relationship with nature, and so on. For a worker to be in a position to exercise control, it immediately raises the need for adequate consciousness and training. To be able to overcome the division of labour and so that everyone in turn can participate in this or that activity, so that everyone can exercise the functions of control and administration –the risk of forming a special category of men who are exclusively controllers and administrators is thus defused – it is necessary to move immediately in the direction of the all-round training of man conscious of his position in the community, thus capable of mastering the main productive sectors and to be truly master of himself and of the world in which he lives.

....with the division of labour arises the possibility, indeed the reality, that intellectual and material activity, enjoyment and labour, production and consumption involve different individuals, and the possibility that they do not come into contradiction lies only in the move to abolish the division of labour (10).

With the success of the revolution a new kind of awareness and participation spreads, which dissolves both the current fragmentation of knowledge into disciplines based on narrow categories as well as the distinction between mental and manual labour, but the further development of this area of discussion is beyond the scope of this work.

With his development [of man] extends the realm of natural necessity, because needs expand; but at the same time the productive forces to satisfy them expand. Freedom in this field can only consist in this, that socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulate their interchange with Nature, they submit it to their collective control instead of being dominated by such a blind power; they do so with the minimum expenditure of energy and under conditions most worthy and more appropriate to their human nature. But this still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond such limits began the development of human capabilities as an end in itself; the true realm of liberty, which, however, can only flourish on the basis of that realm of necessity. The reduction of the working day is its fundamental condition (11).

Planning and Production

Planning. The market, anarchic by definition, is an expression of the inner contradiction between the capitalist organisation as a single entity of production and the anarchy of production in society as a whole.

Socialism overcomes this anarchy by planning for needs. The association of producers, that is to say their organisation in the council system, provides the conditions which allow society to calculate in advance how much work, the quantity of means of production, how many and what raw materials and means can be used in the various branches of production, including activities which, while not immediately providing the means of production or means of subsistence, are a social priority, such as the reclamation of lands scarred by pollution:

The cleansing of the planet and balance between man and nature are [...] amongst the possibilities and the priorities of the proletarian semi-State (12).

The main task of the councils is to pool together the needs expressed by the population of various regions to account for the labour hours required for their satisfaction in order to reorganise the productive environment by dividing the total number of hours between the whole population.

The precise determination of needs will be the focus of the productive life of the future society. Whereas under capitalism, the need to valorise capital drives investment and production, under socialism, the terrain of consumption determines the terrain of production.

Socialist planning enables a management of the production process that respects the balance between man and nature. Only in a society that makes the one mesh harmoniously with the other can its productive forces, from the assessment of the social cost of any specific production (13), allow productive activity to organise and be transferred in a more rational way, saving time and work, energy and resources. The abolition of the antagonism between town and country becomes an additional necessity. Spatial planning offers a new and unprecedented ability to meet needs through a conscious management of space and distance.

Via the terrain of production driven by the terrain of need, a new social consciousness based on authentic participation in the determination of the collective interests arises. Individuals truly become masters of their own destiny.

Production. Once the production of commodities is eliminated the domination of the product over the producers, of dead labour over living social forces, anarchy in social production, is replaced by the conscious organisation of production and distribution according to need. The revolution is life-enhancing, it this life that reclaims the planet, it is the living labour that dominates dead labour, it is healthy humanity ridding itself of the parasitic bourgeoisie.

In socialism the relationship between production, progress, and the environment, as well as the relationship between research, training, needs and productive work is totally redefined. The fact that many schools of thought such as environmentalism and “ negative growth" produce so many studies on the possibility of a redefinition of these issues confirms our programme; too bad they do not realise that these claims are incompatible with the existence of capitalism and that the priority now is to supersede it.

The transformation of large productive and marketing entities into corporations, multinationals and state-owned property shows how the bourgeoisie is becoming an ever more superfluous social class; all the functions of the capitalists are now performed by their employees, the capitalists do nothing but pocket dividends and play the stock market, but the transformation into joint-stock or state-owned companies still does not suppress the capitalist character of the productive forces, to do this requires full socialisation of all the productive forces, their appropriation by the totality of workers, freely associated.

Through the redefinition of production and its criteria and the division of necessary labour amongst the entire active labour force, the reduction of the working day for all is achieved and therefore, the opportunity for everyone to dedicate themselves to the development of their own person and the community in which they live.

Distribution: the labour time voucher and the possession of goods

Socially necessary labour time is based on the determination of general needs. Once the number of hours of socially necessary labour time is determined, this is split between all the active population and from this calculation there emerges the timetable for each person.

... the specific work time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day provided by him, his participation in the social working day. He receives from society a voucher showing that he has contributed a certain amount of work (after deductions are made from his labour for the common funds), and with this ticket he withdraws from the social fund so many means of consumption as the corresponding labour costs. The same amount of labour which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another (14).

E.g. if in a given socialist area – in order to meet all of the needs identified – a quantity of work calculated at 99 million hours a day, were required, and if the active population aged between 18 and 60 years were 33 million people , every individual would carry out of 3 hours of the required daily work. Revolutionary creativity will find a suitable way to identify the practical way to implement this calculation.

From these three hours would have to be carried out a series of deductions that, already considered in the calculation of the overall needs, do not count in the quota for individual consumption:

1 the fraction of the socially necessary labour time to replace worn out means of production and a further portion for their development conversion;

  1. a reserve fund for accidents, natural disasters, etc.;

3 a share for the maintenance of the administrative apparatus, a charge which become less and less expensive thanks to centralisation and rationalisation, and for the public services – which in contrast tend to increase – including benefits and maintenance;

  1. a part to cover the consumption of people unable to work such as the elderly, disabled and children.

Suppose that two hours remain. The individual will have worked an hour for the community and two for himself. This means that in the calculation of the overall needs, it was noted that 66 million work-hours per day are necessary for the production of goods and services intended for individual consumption and 33 million for the rest (but it could be the opposite and would not change the principle).

The relevant territorial council would record the work on a special card, while the committee of workers' control of the workplace could certify that the work of the individual was actually done etc. The card on which to record individual participation in social work could be issued and controlled by the central council, there are certainly now the technical means to implement and monitor this instrument.

According to this hypothesis, work time plays a double role. Its distribution according to a social plan regulates the correct proportionality between different work functions and different needs, on the other hand, work time at the same time serves as a measure of participation of the individual producer in common work, and therefore also to the individual consumable common product. Social relations among people, their work and the products of their work, here they have a crystal clear simplicity both in production and in distribution (15).

Characteristics of the labour time voucher

The labour time voucher, when other capitalist economic categories have not been already eradicated, could quickly regress to perform the function of money, but in disguise. To prevent this from happening the voucher has two characteristics:

  1. It cannot be accumulated: it has an expiry date. Being a mere means intended to mediate the organic exchange between man and nature, a normal means of livelihood necessary to meet immediate needs, it is normal that, like any consumable good, it expires. After a week or a month or more the work-hours on the voucher simply expire and no longer have any value to the individual, they end up in the quota earmarked for the collective social fund.
  2. It does not circulate: it is personal and may not be sold, it can only be exchanged for the products contained in the social consumption fund. Of course, the labour time voucher of those who have dependents may also be boosted by the part of the social fund intended for them, but the hours of labour cannot be used or exchanged outside of public warehouses that we now have the opportunity to access.

In conclusion, it is no more "money" than, for example, a theatre ticket is money (16).

In the warehouses the goods available may well be labelled with their value in hours of work and, based on this, the individual worker that could acquire them. The Dutch Group of International Communists in 1930, suggested (17) that you could use the following accounting method: add up the hours of work necessary for the production of raw materials, plus wear and tear of the means of production, plus the hours socially necessary for a day of a given production and then divide the sum obtained hourly for the number of products made in a particular working environment in a day. In this way you could know exactly how many work hours every single product incorporates and therefore how much of the labour time voucher one can exchange for it. But we will go no further at present, the strength of the revolutionary process will certainly have more resources and imagination than us to solve a problem that, in essence, is entirely practical. What counts here is the principle: the same amount of labour which one has given to society in one form, after making the necessary deductions, one receives back in another form.

The problem of technicians. In the first phase of the new society there may be a problem which in Russia in '17 was very urgent: the difficulty of finding adequate technical and specialised staff. It is true that the automation of the production processes has made it possible to carry out the vast majority of tasks with a short period of training, but there are still some positions that require years of study and apprenticeship positions and that only with great difficulty can be replaced. Will these technicians be willing to provide, under the socialised economy, their work in exchange for a labour voucher equivalent to that of all other workers?

For we communists it is assumed that, tomorrow, the biggest motivator will be the opportunity to realise one’s human potential. The productive and intellectual capacity of everybody will find all the means for their deployment, so the most delicate and important tasks will be covered only by someone who feels a real passion for them, instead of bureaucrats/engineers motivated by money we will find people for the same function because they are naturally inclined towards it, because they are really motivated and eager to do a rewarding job as an end in itself. Capitalism links motivation to earnings (enterprise and meritocracy), but in doing so dries up that which is true disposition of the individual, the ability to realise oneself through one’s own creative activity in the community. The drastic reduction of working hours and the reorganisation of social life that characterise the socialist stage will offer everyone the opportunity to maximise their capabilities and skills well beyond the narrow limits of today. To perform even the most delicate tasks there will be no need of a stimulus as abject as the current accumulation of individual wealth at the expense of the community.

What degree of self-mastery the man of the future will attain is difficult to predict, just as it is difficult to predict how far one’s own skills can improve. Social construction and physical and mental self-education will become both aspects of a single process. [...] Man will become incomparably stronger, wiser, more acute. His body will become more harmonious, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical; forms of life will acquire a dynamic representation. The average human will be at the level of an Aristotle, a Goethe, a Marx. Beyond these heights they will rise to new heights (18).

The fact is that in the frantic hard times of the immediate post-revolutionary period when, even to use productive forces, the associated workers could also be required to use counter-revolutionary technicians, the situation may arise, in order to ensure their contribution, where it is decided, under particular conditions (no greater decision-making power, impossibility to have a "career", etc.) to increase, for the same work done, the amount of goods available to them. But even these problems are transient, although it is right to mention them, it would not make sense to investigate them further today.

Contradictions of the labour time voucher. Despite commodity production being abolished, under socialism the law of value continues to operate (the exchange value of a commodity is given by the socially average labour time necessary for its production). This law continues to operate because the "work for goods" exchange is still in force for which the labour-time voucher is the mediator. This is the application of a right that, like any right, can only consist, by its nature, in the application of an equal measure. But individuals are inherently unequal. So the right of access to equal amounts of consumer goods in exchange for equal amount of hours worked applies to people who, by definition, are different from each other. It is again, in fact, an inequality. This inconvenience is inevitable in the post-revolutionary period which emerges after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society.

Here evidently the same principle that governs the exchange of goods dominates, since it is the exchange of things of equal value. Content and form are changed, because with changed circumstances, no one can give anything except one’s labour, and because on the other hand, nothing can become the property of the individual save the means of individual consumption. But as regards the distribution of the latter among the individual producers, the same principle that dominates as in the exchange of equivalent goods: one exchanges a quantity of work in one form against an equal amount in another (19).

However under socialism, consumer goods are exchanged against labour time (by means of the voucher), and despite this exchange taking place on the basis of the law of value, these same consumer goods are not commodities because:

  1. they are not produced to make a profit, but to meet needs;
  2. they do not circulate through the market, but on the basis of a plan of distribution;
  3. their value is not expressed in money (prices), but the amount of labour hours;

4 they are not produced by wage labour, but by means of socialised labour;

  1. the productive force is not capital, but the association of producers.

As you can see there is no longer any trace of the fundamental categories of capitalism.

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour has disappeared, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour; after labour has become not only a means of life but life's prime want, after the all-round development of individuals and the productive forces have also increased and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow in all their fullness, only then will the narrow horizon of bourgeois law be passed, and society can inscribe on its banners: From each according to ability; to each according to need! (20).

Property and socialism. Private property is the legal relationship which corresponds to the capitalist division of labour and provides for the appropriation of the products of labour by the owners of capital and the means of production. Abolishing private property (or its disguised form in the "state ownership" of a bourgeois state) means abolishing the legal relationship that justifies and guarantees the existence of the propertied class in opposition to the social class of have-nots: bourgeoisie and proletariat.

The socialist mode of production being based on the appropriation of the collective totality of the means of production by all the workers, the overcoming of the division of labour arising from the division between mental and manual labour being a key element, then it – upon its emergence – will necessarily establish a new form of ownership: collective ownership. Not the property of a State that, representing the general interest, rises above the population, but collective ownership exercised directly through the territorial organisation of the councils. The councils are not limited to representing the collective interest; they are a direct emanation of it.

The capitalist mode of appropriation, and therefore capitalist private property, arising from the capitalist mode of production, are the first negation of individual private property resting on personal work. But capitalist production generates, with the necessity of a natural process, its negation. It is the negation of the negation. This does not restore private property, but individual property based on the real achievement of the capitalist era: cooperation and collective ownership of the land and of the means of production produced by this same work (21).

The means of production and the land are collectively taken in charge, everyone is guaranteed a place to live that fits their needs, access to the social consumption fund to meet their immediate needs, the opportunity to join with others to satisfy larger and more complex wants, yet there is no trace of private property. If private property is bourgeois property and if its characteristic is that it can be exchanged for cash, sold, and if this is impossible under socialism because there is no buying/selling or market, then: everyone has the right to simple possession of their assets, the individual ownership of what is "yours", to enjoy and take advantage of as long as one needs it, but without being able to store a means of accumulation that allows one to rise above other men to dominate and exploit them. An old adage reads "everyone has the right to as much land, as they can personally work". This is the key and the solution to the problem of property in socialism.

For the slave owner who bought a negro his property over the latter is acquired [...] thanks to the buying and sale of goods. Except that the sale does not create the title, but merely transfers it. [...] What has created it, in effect, are the relations of production. As soon as these have come to a point where it is necessary for them to change skins, that's when the source of that title and any transaction based on it, the economically and historically justified sources, resulting from the process of creation of social life, collapses. From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of individuals over the world will appear no less absurd than the private property of one man over another. Even an entire society, a nation, all societies of the same epoch combined, even they are not the owners of the land. They only have the possession, the use, and have a duty as boni pater familias, to pass it on, improved, to subsequent generations (22).

For the moment, we will stop here.


(1) Prometeo 9, series VII, 2013.

(2) Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, 1875.

(3) Hence the need for the presence of a strong revolutionary leadership that takes the form of the class party.

(4) K. Marx, Capital, vol. I, UTET, 2009, p.117. Or “Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation” .

(5) Lenin, State and Revolution,

(6) Let us remember that we are here dealing with the problems of the establishment of socialism. Speaking of "workers' control" within companies in capitalism does not make any sense. The employers may grant small forms of "control", as were the "works councils" or the current "RSU", but only in exchange for the guarantee of a reduction of the autonomy of the workers' struggle. We speak of workers' control under socialism.

(7) M. Lewin, Lenin’s Last Struggle ed. Laterza p. 133.

(8) Engels, Anti-Duhring, Complete Works, Ed. Riuniti, vol. XXV, p. 270.

(9) Engels, On Authority, 1872.

(10) Marx-Engels, The German Ideology, Selected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, p. 244-245.

(11) K. Marx, Capital, vol. III, UTET, 2009, p.1011.

(12) M. Stefanini, “The climate reacts to capital”, Prometeo 15, Series V, 1998.

(13) “We mean by the social cost of a good or service the sum of: the amount of energy consumed, the amount of raw materials and the amount of work required, the impact of pollutants on the environment and waste production, environmental impact of a good or service once discarded as waste”. M. Stefanini, op cit.

(14) K. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, in Selected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, p. 960.

(15) K. Marx, Capital, Vol., UTET, 2009, p.157.

(16) K. Marx, cit. in Engels, Anti-Duhring, cit. p 292.

(17) GIK of Holland, Fundamental principles of communist production and distribution, Jaca Book, 1974, p.83.

(18) Trotsky, “Revolutionary art and socialist art”, in For Trotsky, Mondadori 1972, p. 382.

(19) K. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, cit., P. 961.

(20) K. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, cit., P. 962.

(21) K. Marx, Capital, Volume I cit., P. 952.

(22) K. Marx, Capital, Book III cit., P. 958.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Prometeo - Ricerche e battaglie della rivoluzione socialista. Rivista semestrale (giugno e dicembre) fondata nel 1946.